My reading list tilts heavily to the past. I recently finished The Minister’s Wooing, a pre-Civil War Harriet Beecher Stowe novel. Leaping over decades, I then moved onto A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich, written in 1931.
But as I listen to the radio and read current newspapers and magazines, I often jot down contemporary titles that sound intriguing. Every once in a while I log on to the library’s computer system and go down the list, placing holds on those titles. Over the next few days (or weeks, depending on how popular or obscure the book is) a computer generated voice on the phone lets me know that I have books waiting at my local branch.
Occasionally, I find a gem, as I did this past week-end when I had an extremely enjoyable time reading Ruth Reichl’s depiction of her life as the restaurant critic for the New York Times.
But way too often I don’t get past the first few pages of books that were praised as intriguing, humorous, thought provoking, etc. It seems that the reviewer neglected to mention that the book was also downright vulgar. Am I the only reader left in America who finds profanity on every page a surefire reason to stop reading? Somehow, I don’t think so; but clearly enough readers consider four letter words to be necessary for meaningful and/or witty repartee so that their inclusion is distressingly frequent.
There’s another common denominator to a great deal of modern writing that I’ve discovered. It is the inclusion, often in otherwise good books, of throwaway lines that are totally irrelevant to the plot. These lines attack conservatives, Republicans and the great big evil, the NRA. It seems as if the author, in the middle of doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, namely writing a book, was seized by a paroxysm of hatred that necessitated a venting of feelings before getting back to the topic at hand.